Swedish actress Noomi Rapace juggles septuplet roles, others
Already popular in her native Sweden, Noomi Rapace rose to international fame in 2009 via her intense performances as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” That same year, she went on to star in “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” She lost out to Rooney Mara when the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was made in 2011, acknowledding then that she was nervous about the prospect of going to Hollywood. She wasn’t even sure that she wanted to work in the United States, she said. Six years later, Rapace seems far less nervous. She has a string of American films to her credit, including hits such as Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” (2011) and Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” (2012) as well as the indie productions “The Drop” (2015), “Child 44″” (2015) and “”Rupture”” (2016). She lives in England now and works frequently.
“It’s gone really well,” the 37-year-old actress said by phone from the house in London that she shares with her young son, Lev. “I realize that it’s not that different from what I was doing in Sweden. I think my idea of Hollywood was that I was not going to be working with real filmmakers, with proper artists, and I’ve realized that it’s actually all a mix. “On the biggest productions in Hollywood today, there are big, artistic, stately, artsy directors,” she continued. “I thought it was going to be very different from what I was used to and how I was used to working, but it feels like the film industry in Hollywood — and in other countries I’ve worked in, too — is closer to what I wanted to do than I first expected.” Back then, the multilingual Rapace still struggled with English. During an interview on behalf of “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” she continually apologized and asked, “Is this the right word”” Her English nowadays is essentially flawless. “I almost forgot about that because I moved to London and I’ve been in London maybe for four years now,” Rapace said. “My family lives with me here, and we speak English at home. So it’s like, my sister’s boyfriend, my sister, me and my son — we all speak English.”
Rapace was on the phone to discuss her latest spate of projects, including “What Happened to Monday”,” “Unlocked,” “Bright” and “Stockholm.”” “What Happened to Monday”” — set to begin streaming next Sunday on Netflix — unfolds in a near-future world in which people are allowed to have only one child, with any additional children put to death, if discovered. Rapace stars in the sci-fi drama as seven sisters — septuplets named Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on — who have remained hidden and safe for three decades by venturing out only one at a time and pretending to be the same person. The trouble starts, and the action and intrigue kick in, when Monday goes missing, forcing her sisters out of hiding in an effort to save her. In gearing up to play the sisters, Rapace recalled, she collaborated with director Tommy Wirkola and the writers to “build” the sisters and develop seven unique characters, aiming to to make them real and to avoid cliches.
“I wanted them to be rich characters and real, each one of them. It was a journey just to work on the script and find them in me. I realized that what they are, each sister, is a different version of me. “Then, when we started shooting it, it was the hardest thing and the craziest thing I’ve ever done, but I had to find a ritual to enter one character and stay in her for a couple of hours or sometimes half a day, sometimes shorter, and then wash her off,” the actress said. “I had a perfume for each one of them, and I had different playlists, a different kind of music for each one. So it was this whole ritual procedure I had to go through every time I switched between them. “We also had six doubles, girls who were in there playing with me sometimes, but sometimes it was just me with a green screen,” Rapace continued. “Sometimes I had an earpiece and I was answering myself and had my own dialogue, that I pre-recorded, in my ear, so that I could tie in the answers to the character I was playing in the moment. “It was just absolutely mental, and the longest and hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
In “Unlocked,” a thriller that will be released theatrically and via video on demand on Sept. 1, Rapace portrays a CIA agent racing the clock to avert a biological attack on London. Orlando Bloom, Tony Collette, Michael Douglas and John Malkovich are among the high-voltage cast. Next will be “Bright,” a fantasy movie that will make its debut Dec. 22 on Netflix. Will Smith plays a human cop partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton) in order to chase down a powerful, much-coveted weapon. Rapace plays an elf — an elf, she joked, with exceptionally good taste. “It was something we created together, (director) David Ayer and I,” Rapace said. “It was very liberating to be a character that is so smooth, and, even with the inner chaos and inner demons and everything that goes on inside of her, she keeps it, she holds it really tight,” the actress said. “She’s a strong leader and she knows what she wants, and she’s very driven, and nothing can stop her.” Beyond “Bright,” Rapace recently wrapped “Stockholm,” which she called “a very unique love story between a hostage (Rapace) and a robber (Ethan Hawke).”
She’s currently shooting “Close,” in which she plays a bodyguard. The actress is also working on two biopics — “Callas,” about legendary opera singer Maria Callas, and “Ferrari,” in which she portrays Enzo Ferrari’s estranged wife, Linda. That’s a full slate — maybe even too full, Rapace acknowledged. “Not filming could be healthy for me, to take a little break,” Rapace said with a nervous laugh. “But I guess I will keep busy putting the other things together while I’m taking time off.”